Saturday, July 28, 2012

Good afternoon, Mr. President

If you were to hear a group of one hundred girls cheering and screaming at the top of their lungs, you would probably assume it was about Ryan Gosling, right? Or maybe, Taylor Lautner? Maybe even Liam Hemsworth? However, for the girls at ALA Girls Nation, the subject of their adoration was the one and only President Barack Obama. At ALA Girls Nation 2012, the 98 senators assembled from across the nation had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of meeting, arguably, the most powerful man in the world. The experience was life-changing, but it turns out that meeting the president isn’t all glamour and prestige. Our final day at Girls Nation started with our very last senate session, in which the newly inaugurated ALA Girls Nation President Alauna Sessoms-Hall signed all of the passed legislation. Our senators passed 13 bills and 3 resolutions, surpassing the amount of legislation passed by Boys Nation. After signing the bills, we boarded the buses to go see the Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson memorials.

On a blistering late-July day, the awesomeness of seeing all of these monuments was mixed with a hesitancy within all the senators at the thought of arriving at the White House perspiring and sun burned. But in addition to being beautiful, intelligent and funny, the Girls Nation senators are tough, and we walked the basin enjoying the beautiful scenery.

After touring the monuments, we went to the White House to join our fellow Boys Nation senators in touring the residence and meeting the president. The feeling you have when you walk through the halls of the East Wing and see all the pictures of former presidents is unexplainable. One collage showed former presidents meeting with foreign dignitaries, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth has met with 11 of the past 12 U.S. presidents? She has met with all the presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama himself, with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson. The senators walked through the green room, the red room, the blue room (original names right?), and some girls even toured the White House ladies’ restroom (White House tissues make fabulous souvenirs, by the way).

An hour after we arrived, some of the president’s visitors staff took on the task of arranging all 98 senators into an orderly set up for a picture with President Obama. There was a collective gasp and massive cheers as the President walked in and shared a few remarks. All the senators put on our biggest grins, and we snapped a couple pictures with Mr. President and tried not to swoon as he walked into the middle of the group. Then, every senator shook President Obama’s hand and some even snuck in a hug. (Rumor has it a couple girls have taken to NOT washing their right hand or uniform polo in an attempt to preserve the sacred moment.) Following the pictures, handshakes and tears, all of the Boys and Girls Senators went outside and got to watch the president board Marine Force 1. Somebody pinch me please!

By the time we all finally got back to our buses, the vast majority of girls were in tears (tears of happiness that is). They took the time to phone their parents and friends to share the memorable moment. I think it is safe to say, that whether the Girls Nation senators agree or disagree with President Obama’s policies, every girl walked out of that meeting changed and impacted for life. So long Ryan Gosling, Taylor Lautner and yes, even Liam Hemsworth, because the ALA Girls Nation senators have set their sights on someone MUCH BETTER!

Written by the Rockville community

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Am Ready

Sitting on the plane during my short flight from Florida, thoughts concerning ALA Girls Nation swarmed my head. I pondered, “What will these girls be like? Will they be as amazing as my ALA Girls State delegation? What will they think about me? Will I have a good roommate? Will my roommate have a snoring problem?!” All of these questions were enveloped in a feeling of uncertainty and bound by inescapable intimidation. I thought to myself, “These girls are the best that our nation has to offer, how I will ever compete? How on Earth will I measure up?” When I finally had my first encounter with the Girls Nation senators, I was confronted with the harsh reality that I had good reason to be intimidated. This was the most accomplished and distinguished group of individuals that I had ever had the honor of being a part of. Surprisingly, the realization of this fact resonated very well with me. I decided that because I was privileged enough to be among this group of people, I may as well take advantage of it. I may as well make the most of this opportunity and soak up every ounce of greatness from the people around me as I possibly can. And after having nearly completed this week, I can genuinely say that an insurmountable amount of greatness has rubbed off of my fellow Girls Nation senators, and on to me. When I mention greatness, I’m not simply speaking of their greatness in the sense of politics and government. I speak of their incredible will to better themselves, their undeniable patriotism, their incredible courage, their inconceivable strength, and their inflexible commitment to excellence. In these last six days, I’ve laughed with you until I cried, I’ve cried because I felt your pain, and I’ve learned more than I could ever have imagined. And for that I thank you all. Much like SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as our great President Alauna Sessoms-Hall, I am ready. I’m ready to use the experiences and connections that I’ve made here at ALA Girls Nation to enhance not only my life, but the lives of those around me, as well as the beautiful nation in which we all reside.

Amber Johnson, Senator
Thursday—Capitol Hill Day
I was very proud of all the girls in the Potomac community today as they explored the Capitol Hill area and met with their real-life Senators. They took initiative to see different sights of interest,ranging from the Library of Congress to the National Mall. Today they not only displayed responsible independence, but also their passionate interests for political history and our country’s legislative process. –Kelsey Keny, Junior Counselor (Tennessee)

Our Day on Capitol Hill

Today the Mississippi senators were able to meet two senators and two representatives. We had the opportunity to join a family and go on a private tour led by Mississippi’s representative Greg Harper. We were privileged enough to be able to visit the speaker of the house balcony, the chapel, and learn facts that the general public does not know. This was a once in a life opportunity and I would not trade it for the world. Being able to share this experience with my fellow senators from Mississippi made it all the better. That is a day that I will never forget. –Kelly Mitchell, Senator, Mississippi

This afternoon, the Tennessee senators had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. senators from Tennessee. Although the meetings were relatively short, the exhilaration and the content that filled them were overwhelming. I could not help feeling extremely honored at the privilege of meeting such respected members of our government and being able to speak about issues and share personal experiences with them. Today, I had the opportunity to change my perspective of the government. Before, it was a council of men and women whom I had no relation to, especially since I could not yet vote for any of them to hold their offices. However, now I can put a face to the once impersonal organization, a friendly and concerned face that truly wants to consider my opinions. I once thought I knew what career I wanted, yet today I found myself torn between my old passions and my newfound love for congressional procedures. No longer am I sure that I want to pursue journalism; instead, I am seriously considering politics and international diplomacy. This new interest was definitely sparked by my experience today at the Capitol taking in the roles of our senators and the process of the Senate, which I personally listened to. I am taking away so much from my trip to the Capitol today, and I am inspired to be an even more active citizen from today on. Charlene Hong, Senator, Tennessee

Today the NH girls were so blessed to meet with all delegates from NH. We were also very lucky to have such wonderful gentlemen as our Boys Nation “counterparts.” The staffs in each office were so kind and helpful and even provided us with a tour led by an up and coming intern. We got to see the deep dark secrets of Capitol Hill and learn things we never could have imagined. Our day was overall one of the best I have experienced and shared it with the most incredible people. –Samantha Hutchins, Senator, New Hampshire

As Senate Chaplain, I would like to post a prayer for my blog post.
Dear Lord,
I cannot even express how much this week has changed my life. It has shown me that there are many beautiful, intelligent, ambitious young women in the country, just like myself. I have learned so much about government, others’ opinions, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I pray that you give each and every one of these women much success in their future, whatever it holds. Never will I forget my week at Girls Nation, and I thank the Lord for this blessing of an opportunity.
-Desiree Bartels, Senate Chaplain, Nebraska
It has been such a privilege to be a part of ALA Girls Nation this week. I have never had the opportunity to be around so many amazing people and it was so inspirational to see how much effort they put into everything they do. One of the highlights of this week was definitely listening to the Holocaust Survivor. I had visited a concentration camp before, but I had never heard about it from a real-life survivor. It was so inspirational. It is sad to think that we will be leaving soon, but I know that I have made amazing friendships that will last a lifetime, and memories that I will never forget.
Dana Kaufman, Senator
North Dakota

Reflections from Georgetown

A month ago if you told me that a void of judgment and an incubator for encouragement existed, I would have laughed at you and continued on doubting people around me. However, after spending just a few days with my fellow senators in the heart of change and activism, I have seen firsthand a place filled with open minds, innovative ideas, and above all, the desire to make the world a safer, more righteous place. People don’t frown here. They smile even when they disagree. ALA Girls Nation has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life because the girls smile no matter your religion, political opinions, and personality. We come here as senators because we want to facilitate a discussion of ideas that will change the world, and this intention is more than I could have ever hoped to be surrounded by. –Caolinn Mejza, Senator, Nevada

All ninety-eight girls serving as senators at ALA Girls Nation truly want to be here and are excited about the opportunity. This simple fact may seem obvious to many, but to be in a group of such involved girls that never succumb to the plague of apathy that many teenagers are affected by is a unique environment. This environment encourages sincere connections and friendships to be made between girls of all different backgrounds, political views, religions, and interests. In addition, the girls here are thrilled to engage in real discussions about real issues facing our country. Despite the fact that these bills are being applied to a mock nation, the girls are just as passionate and thoughtful about these issues, if not more, than actual United States senators. ALA Girls Nation has made me think, laugh, question my own views, consider my future, and appreciate the nation in which I live. –Alice Barsky, Senator, Georgia

To be in a group of ninety eight girls who are dedicated, opinionated, but most importantly, passionate about current events and our nation is without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Before coming to Girls’ Nation I had not even met girls from all of the states in our country, let alone met so many people with such different fascinating political ideologies, and diverse outlooks on life. Being here, among the best and brightest of girls whom I have ever had the pleasure to work with and laugh with, among the future leaders of our nation and of our world, I cannot help but be impacted forever, possibly in ways that I will not even realize for years to come. I have come to question, learn from, and love my girls here at Girls’ Nation. This experience is unbelievable, and I am so grateful for every opportunity. –Anna Linton, Senator, Wisconsin

Each day I meet someone new, learn a little more, and become a little more involved. Each of the girls here has in a way benefited each other to debate, and most importantly break out of our shells. We have become so close to one another. The best part about these past days, I must say, was planning for our political party rallies, it was so much fun. Next would be debating each one of the bills, some of the bills were really controversial, but what I loved about everything was that all the girls were trying their best to be respectful and courteous of each other’s feelings. I’m so glad to be blessed with this opportunity to meet such influential people that have changed the way I view politics forever. –Dynasty Winters, Senator, North Carolina

I thank God for this amazing experience with these 97 other senators from all over this beautiful country. He has truly blessed me with people I believe may be lifelong friends and even one day fellow advocates, lawyers, and politicians. The atmosphere and experience here has truly reinforced my desire and ambition to become a public servant. I love how we can have very polar opposite views, have a true discussion, not a debate, and smile at the end of it knowing that it’s okay for someone to think differently than you do. I wish all of these senators well in their future, whether in public service or politics or not. God & Country. – Angela McKinney, Senator, South Carolina

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself” –John Adams
Our generation takes many things for granted. We take our technology, our economic security, our sovereignty, our freedom of speech, and our right to practice our own religion as rights granted to us by the United States. These are not without toil though. Democracy is not passed down in our blood stream, or given to us at birth. We must teach it, earn it, and most importantly fight for it. I have learned this week that there are people in my generation capable of completing the task at hand. ALA Girls Nation senators have an uncanny fervor and passion for current issues and politics. However, the faith each girl has in our system of democracy is unending and unyielding. This is what we must take home with us. We will be the ones to teach democracy; we will be the ones to make sure it never dies. – Libby Wuller, Senator, Oklahoma

A year ago, if you said I would be at ALA Girls Nation, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you said that I would have friends in every state in the country, I would have said you were crazy. And if you said that I would grow to love parliamentary procedure, I would have called you delusional. It’s definitely been a week of surprises. We’ve learned invaluable lessons in patriotism, citizenship, and teamwork, and my fellow senators have l every step of the way. But now, as we approach the end of our week together, we must remember to take what we’ve learned back to our own communities. ALA Girls Nation has lit the fire in us; now it’s time to let our light shine. – Anjali Fernandes, Vice President, Missouri

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Girls Nation: commonly described as a program where two girls from every Girls State across the country are elected and travel to Washington, D.C. to serve as senators in representation of their state.
Often times, definitions do not provide an explaination worthy enough of the word. Girls Nation is like this. We are family. We are growing as women hand-in-hand with each other; the best of the best. Looking around, I know I am surrounded by future leaders of America that have the power to influence the nation.
Today, Nesse Godin gave Girls Nation a biography of her life surviving the Holocaust. As sniffles and tears flowed simultaneously through the aisles, I knew I was not the only one touched by her story. Imagine, losing your family at 14, working in labor camps, surviving a death march and concentration camp. This woman had everything against her and yet today, she so gracefully stood before us telling her story, poised and accepting of her past. I watched her, I saw her, I understood her. I looked into her eyes imagining those eyes watching the horrors of death all around her at such a young age. I watched her hands, gently rested on the podium as if they were never the tools to her survival. Today, a leader spoke of her success, her life, appreciating the good over the bad. This truly inspired me to make the best out of every situation and to appreciate everything we are blessed with in America.
Sisterhood: typically, one swallows this term in assumption that it is a direct relation between daughters of the same parents. Yet as we ascended upon D.C. tonight, taking in the Lincoln Memorial, World War I and World War II Memorials, the Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Memorial, we couldn't have gotten any closer than a relation only described as sisterhood. Constant pictures, smiles, shared silence in appreciation of our fallen veterans; we bonded as communities, but most importantly as a nation.
My junior counselor asked me to write a blog about our experience today. But unless you were there, or even more, unless you were one of us, no one will truly be able to feel the conection we have made with each other. No words or 'report' is worthy of defining the experience of Girls Nation. Although, I can say that it is an experience I wouldn't give up for the world.

Kara Granelli, senator
Foggy Bottom
New Jersey

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Parli Pro" and small talk

Monday was the day of the first official Senate Session. It was so interesting. Senators quickly adjusted to parliamentary procedures and faced their fears. I loved listening to what each girl had to say. Everyone offered opinions that were quite crucial and asked appropriately. I have to say I am truly impressed with how the girls structured and put together their ideas for each bill or resolution.
Today we also went to Walter Reed Military Medical Center. It was such a great experience to talk to men who have served our country. It was nice that we could just have simple, small talk conversations. I also met two soldiers from my home state of Arizona. It was great to hear a little bit about them. It was a really humbling experience for me and all the senators.

Aisha Subhan, Senator
Chevy Chase

Sharing religious perspectives

I have been having such a wonderful time here at Girls Nation! So far, my favorite event has been visiting Arlington National Cemetery. It was peaceful, serene, and inspiring—reminding each American of the sacrifices and strength seen in American history. I was honored to have the privilege of participating in the “Telling of Religions Service.” It felt so great to speak on behalf of my religion. I truly felt empowered and at peace with myself. Speaking at the amphitheatre with the architecture, environment, and the lovely group of ladies that respectfully listened to each word I said made me feel incredibly comfortable and full of bliss. I will never forget this opportunity I received. I hope I, in some way, have helped the girls learn something new. Perhaps I cleared up some misconceptions. That would be a dream come true.

Aisha Subhan, Senator
Chevy Chase

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts from Alexandria

“ I’ve appreciated that everyone is so upbeat even though they lost their elections!”
Dru Gopaluni, Senator

“It’s really awesome to meet people from all around the country that care about the same things that I do. It’s going to be an awesome week debating bills, and working on legislation and seeing how much progress we can make as a group because everyone is so smart and talented and everyone is just buzzing with energy. It is FANTASTIC!”
Riya Patel, Senator

“Diversity isn’t demanded here, but we live and breathe it. The girls here all come from a wide range of walks of life and it is an honor to be among such an intelligent group of individuals.”
Hayley Kick, Senator

An everlasting memory to lace us together

Oh, the joys of the first day! I can just imagine each girl walking down the Baltimore airport with the same thoughts in mind as I had: what will these girls be like? Where are the Girls Nation women?! What am I going to say to Obama?! Upon arrival, however, all of our fears settled as we each exchanged names and states of origin. I looked around and embraced the kindness and openness of all the girls. Some of the political junkies were already chatting about policies and the election; others were sharing their abundant knowledge on body piercings. The immense amount of diversity here is comforting. I imagine some girls are in a state of culture shock- where else do you get to meet girls from all over the country (except Hawaii)? Soon after arriving, we headed to dinner and sat with our communities. We discovered the treasure that is the dessert table; others found themselves immersed in a soda heaven. Some were busy starting their pin collections! After an appetizing and satisfying meal, we went to the opening ceremony, in which each girl and Girls Nation staff member placed a poppy on the wreath that will be placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Soon thereafter, the room was jumping with the voices of all the girls learning songs and our oh-so-very precise choreography. We all came to love singing “Yankee Doodle” (because we have a dance and bandanas to twirl) and the song learning was a success! The night was topped off with community meetings that went over rules in general and more ice-breaker games. The week has commenced and ladies, may I say, we have a lot of work to do. We have governments to create, political careers to launch, and dear friendships to create and learn from. I expect nothing less than days full of enjoyment and passion, late night bonding sessions with roommates, and lastly, an everlasting memory that will lace us together after our week-long journey here ends.

Susie Mirabedini, Senator
Spring Valley
North Carolina

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Instant friendships

We all come from our own ALA Girls State programs, from basically 49 different worlds. Today was the beginning of ALA Girls Nation, where we united those worlds. We all knew the deal--getting thrown into a group of strangers that we’ve never met before, expected to make instant friendships and become comfortable living with each other in one short week. Why would we do this? It’s the passion for patriotism, the passion for America, and the passion for gaining knowledge of the political world. It’s the feeling of walking up to a group of girls at an airport and being greeted with “what’s your name?”, “where are you from?” and “how was your flight?” without a second thought, that makes it all worth it. Today, it seemed that within a Nano second, if you didn’t know us, you would think we were all long lost friends. We may have accents and we may have different home lives, but we must all have something in common because, well, here we all are, at ALA Girls Nation. Here at the 4-H Center the atmosphere was indescribably welcoming with all the junior and senior counselors. Having your personal hallway and own community makes it feel like this is home, and it is, for this week. We had a lot thrown at us this first day and some of us may be a little (or a lot) over-whelmed, but just by these first hours you can tell it’s going to be a great week. I am sincerely looking forward to it and can anticipate that ALA Girls Nation will be one of the best experiences of my life.

Abigail Lore, Senator
Spring Valley
New Hampshire

Saturday, July 21, 2012

ALA Girls Nation 2012

The girls arrive today! The hallways are decorated, the binders are put together, the ladies are dressed in their purple shirts and yes, we've read the bills. We are experienceing some weather delays...again. Oh well, see you soon!